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RV Winter Use

Many RV owners put their RVs in storage for the winter, particularly those who live in colder climates. Others enjoy the beauty of winter camping. While I highly recommend winter camping, it does require extra care on the part of the owner to protect both the RV and the occupants from the ravages of winter. This article suggests some ways to enjoy winter camping while protecting the inside or your RV from cold damage.

  1. Ceiling vents/fans – place insulating pads or pillows in the ceiling vents and fans.
  2. Refrigerator – the refrigerant can gel up at around 20 degrees F. This is a permanent condition. To help prevent this, if you must use the fridge, place duct tape over the top two vents on the outside access panel. Be sure to place the tape on the inside of the panel. A small space heater can help in the compartment, but it MUST be kept away from flammable objects. If your fridge has an ice maker and/or water dispenser, you must insulate the water line.
  3. Heating – if your unit has the furnace ducted into the basement, it is important to run the furnace at all times. However, you can save propane by keeping the thermostat low and wear extra layers of clothing. If you don’t have basement heating, you can save propane by using a space heater inside the RV. In this case be sure to crack a window or vent for ventilation.
  4. Water Heater – Ensure the water heater is turned on and functioning at all times. Consider using both propane and electric energy sources for the heater, in case you have a failure of one system.
  5. Condensation – winter camping will generate significant condensation inside the RV. You could run a dehumidifier to limit this.
  6. Propane – Propane use is fine in cold weather, but note that the vaporization temperature of propane is -40 degrees, so if it’s colder than that, your propane appliances will not work. Propane will be consumed quite rapidly in cold weather, so know where you can fill up.
  7. Slideouts – Slideout topper awnings and roofs accumulate ice and snow, which causes problems when trying to retract the slide, so be sure to keep ice and snow off the slideout as it accumulates. Also, it is a good idea to spray anti-freeze on the exterior slide seals to keep them from freezing, which can prevent the slide-outs from functioning. Consider retracting the slides the night before you are leaving an RV park to prevent overnight freezing of the seals and mechanism.

Since many of these precautions require 110V AC in order to work, extra care must be taken if you are dry camping. In that case, it will be difficult to keep your plumbing safe unless you have an Arctic Package. Remember that plumbing freeze-up can cause significant damage.

Finally, practice due diligence and be sure to check the weather at your destination(s), and make sure the parks and campgrounds you plan to stay at are open. Carry all the recommended cold-weather equipment such as tire chains, sleeping bags, flashlights, spare clothing, water in an insulated container, white gas stove, GPS, weather band radio, etc.

About the author: Steve Froese

Steve Froese, an avid RV owner, traveler, and Coach-Net member since 2013, is the principal of “A Word to the Wise Technical Communications”, a published RV author, certified RV technician, and licensed Professional Engineer. He frequently collaborates with the “RV Doctor”, Gary Bunzer, and has worked with the RVIA/RVDA as a technical and training writer and consultant. Professionally, he works as a quality engineer and musician. Watch for more of Steve’s work in upcoming Coach-Net publications.

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